British gov't to meet unions calling for Israel boycott
Government seeks to clarify its belief that boycotts of Israel are counterproductive; move welcomed by Israel's envoy to UK.
By JONNY PAUL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT, LONDON
The British government is this week meeting representatives of British unions in order to clarify its belief that boycotts of Israel are counterproductive and do not contribute to peace efforts in the region.
Ivan Lewis, minister of state responsible for the Middle East, will meet representatives of leading British unions in order to make clear the government's firm belief that calls for boycotts of Israel cannot and do not contribute to peace.
The move has been welcomed by Israel's Ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor.
"For too long, certain British institutions have attempted to wage a campaign against Israeli academics, economics and culture in order to de-legitimize and demonize the State of Israel," Prosor said. "We have witnessed the Edinburgh Film Festival capitulate to Ken Loach's demands and the boycott of Israel's Day of Science, both of which had no political agenda. Foreign Secretary David Miliband's recognition that such absurdly bias boycotts diminish the chances to reach a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians is welcome and a necessary step to strengthen Israeli-British bilateral relations."
Last week, British Foreign Minister David Miliband expressed his dismay that motions calling for boycotts of Israel are being discussed by trade unions across the country.
"British people of all backgrounds are distressed and frustrated by the Arab-Israeli conflict," Miliband said. "Many wish to take action to advance the goals of peace and justice, a response I understand and share intensely.
"But I am saddened when this proactive energy is channeled into boycotting economic and academic events, as well as cultural events which seek to increase understanding between people."
Miliband said that boycotts constrains dialogue and debate.
"Such boycotts would, I believe, obstruct opportunities for cooperation and dialogue and serve only to polarize debate further. Boycotts would only make it harder to achieve the peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve and desire," he said.
He called on the unions to find a solution that meets today's challenges.
"Rather than seeking to boycott, I urge the British unions to help find a shared solution to common challenges, and I am encouraged that they are ready to do so. I commend Israeli and Palestinian trade unions for their determination to build bridges between their societies, for example through joint training for their members.
"Initiatives like this bring people closer together, rather than pushing them further apart, and the government welcomes and encourages British union support for such projects. It is vital that we do all we can to break the vicious cycle of fear and mistrust and help Israelis and Palestinians find common ground so that they can live together in peace," Miliband added.
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